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Saturday, February 9, 2002
Tight security means long lines at some venues


SALT LAKE CITY -- Spectators have faced lengthy delays entering Olympic venues on the opening day of competition at the Winter Olympics because of stringent security checks.

At Deer Valley, about 55 kilometers east of Salt Lake City, only about a third of the 13,000 spectators expected for the women's freestyle skiing moguls qualification were in place at the start.

"Getting through security took us about an hour and a half and when we got in the qualifications were already finished," said Diane McLaughin from Atlantic City. "You gotta do what you gotta do. We'll come earlier next time."

Fans queuing for the ice hockey preliminary round displayed similar patience in temperatures of minus 10 degrees Celsius.

"It's incredibly cold," said John Hensler from Phoenix. "It's slow today but what can you do? This is the way it is and they're being careful."

Andy Siegeson added: "We had been warned there would be a lot of security but it sure is cold."

At Soldier Hollow, 100 kilometers from the Utah capital, there were still long queues 30 minutes before the start of the women's 15K freestyle cross-country skiing, the first final of the Games.

Salt Lake City Organizing Committee (SLOC) senior vice-president Grant Thomas, the official in charge of venues, transport and the environment, said delays had been expected on the first day.

"Safety is a high priority and security is a high priority for everyone," he told Reuters. "We don't want to compromise.

"It was expected the first day would take longer but the flow rate will continue to improve."

Thomas said there had been an improvement in the flow between the opening ceremony dress rehearsal and Friday's ceremony.

"The first day will take longer," he said.

A SLOC official at Deer Valley said there had been extra traffic on the roads leading to the venues because of recreational skiers.

"It's Saturday and people are out there going to the resorts," he said.